One thing you learn about when you lose or gain a lot of weight is how to build a wardrobe from scratch.
(I’m not going to say how much weight in my case, but it’s a lot.)
(Actually, I’ve learned a huge amount—about myself, about some of the other people in my life, about the world and life and friendship and airplane seats …. well, just, a LOT. But I digress.)
It’s certainly not something I’d ever learned about working with clients. As a stylist, I’ve never worked with a client yet who said, sure, let’s ditch every last piece of clothing I own, and start completely over. (Few people, at least here in Washington, DC, have the interest in doing that, let alone the means.) On the other hand, that’s exactly what I’ve done: I have nothing left of my wardrobe from a year ago—none of the gym clothes, PJs, underclothes, or tights, and definitely none of the dresses, skirts, pants, jeans, etc. (With colder weather looming, I still have no coat except this, and it hardly qualifies.)
8 ways to bring Big Change into your wardrobe
Here are some of the wardrobing lessons I’ve learned along the way—a necessarily incomplete list, since I still have a few more pounds to lose. Here goes:
- Thrift stores rock. After the initial thrill of buying new clothes in smaller sizes wore off, I realized I couldn’t bear to keep buying and getting rid of clothes. It felt like throwing money away. I realized if I was going to throw away money, I’d rather do it in much small amounts. Helloooo, Goodwill! (To the thrifting naysayers out there, I say: I got a ton of compliments on my Deletta tops, my Banana Republic skirts, my Theory jacket … you get the idea: Great clothes, really cheap. I particularly like the Goodwill in Rockville, MD. But I’ve also visited other Goodwills, too—with great results.) I also visited two local consignments stores, Reddz Trading, in Bethesda, MD, and Washington, DC, and the Mustard Seed, in Bethesda, MD. At the cost of just a few dollars, it felt totally fine to buy something, wear it for a month, and give it away when it only cost me a few dollars.
- Jeans (or whatever you rely on most) that fit are essential. Baggy jeans? No, thanks. So because I live in jeans when not meeting with clients (and sometimes even then), at every size along the way, I got a couple new pair of the kind I like best. (I’m fond of the unfashionable NYDJ; what can I say? it’s a brand that fits me well.) But then it got old spending $125 on jeans only to get rid of them after six weeks, so I moved to Old Navy jeans. I’ll have to discover a new favorite once I reach my goal. Whatever your go-to piece of clothing is, make sure you always have one that looks great on you. Then expand the selection as you settle into whatever your Big Change brought your way.
- Get fussy. Having broadened my options just by thrifting, and realizing how annoying it was to bring things into my wardrobe only to have to get rid of them a few weeks later, even when they didn’t cost much, I decided I wanted to be much, much more discerning about what I DID bring into my closet/house/life. I started trying things on at home, walking around in them, sitting down—thoroughly testing them out, in other words—and asking family members for feedback. And then … returning them when I felt they didn’t deserve to be in my (small) closet.
- Styling goes a LONG way. Only through the miracle of restyling was I able to last for a year on very, very few new clothes, most of it thrifted and opportunistically selected, and do so in style. By spending a half-hour or an hour once a week creating and trying new outfits, I kept things fresh and gave new life to “old” pieces.
- Accessories are your friend. Lose enough weight, and even certain accessories will stop fitting. (I’m looking at you, cute fashion rings I can’t wear any more.) But for the most part, scarves, bags, shoes, and jewelry do still suit me, and they definitely extend and uplevel everything else in my wardrobe, whether we’re talking about a good bag, some on-trend shoes, or a great pendant necklace.
- Versatility counts. It’s great to find those unusual prints and interesting silhouettes (and I’d say most women need more detail and interest in their wardrobes, but a few basics are also key. Find a few great workhorses—like my black stretch cotton knee-length skirt. I’ve dressed it up and I’ve dressed it down, added a jacket or a great necklace. Ditto a navy cotton shift dress. Without them or something like them, I would have had a much harder time.
- Change begets change. As my body changed, I realized I wanted to make some adjustments to my personal branding and total image. Stay tuned for the results of that insight—it’s still a work in progress—but suffice it to say that when we change our outward selves, we may also find that we want to make changes on the inside as well. (And the converse is also true.)
- Less is more. Making do with just one or two pair of jeans and one or two bras at a time—and only a few more options than that in my skirt/top/dress wardrobe—showed me that I really want less and better. I’m completely on board with the current move toward having fewer pieces of better quality, fewer things but ones I want to wear all the time, I love them so much. It reminds me of my teacher and friend Brenda Kinsel‘s adage, which is something like this: All your clothes should be calling out to you, “Wear me! Wear me!”
How are you changing?
Many of these “rules” are relevant in a variety of situations involving Big Change, not just weight loss or weight gain. Change professions, move to a new place—and there are other occasions when a complete wardrobe overhaul is called for. (Sometimes it helps to bring in an expert, like an image consultant, to help.)
And they’re relevant even if you just want to make a Big Change to your image. Experimentation is easier when it’s low-risk, right? So consider making time to try on a lot of different options in your favorite store, and even taking them home to play around with them in the privacy of your own home.
Have you tried to completely revamp your wardrobe? How did you handle it? What did you learn about your style and/or yourself? Leave a comment and let me know, or head over to Facebook and weigh in. I’d love to hear from you!
(Ketura Persellin is an image consultant and personal stylist in Washington, DC, Bethesda, MD; and Chevy Chase, MD. She loves helping her clients build confidence and reach their goals. Please contact her for a complimentary initial strategy session.)